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Dec 15, 2008 11:50 AM

One Day in Atlanta

So, we're spending a week at Christmas with my brother in Flowery Branch, GA. One day, my husband and I are going to hop the Amtrak train to downtown and spend the day exploring the city.

We'd love recommendations for things we should see / do / places to eat downtown. We figure we'll start at the Amtrak station, walk and use MARTA, then end up back at the Amtrak station. We like quirky local spots, and would like to experience the unique character of the city.

Come on, Atlanta locals – tell us what you love about your city!

Lauren & Dean

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  1. I might be wrong, but I don't think the Amtrak station is near Marta, nor near downtown for that matter. Maybe there's a shuttle bus that connects the two. The closest place to walk to to eat that I would recommend would be La Pietra Cucina, a new Italian place that is very good though not good for ambiance (unless it happens to be a nice day and you can sit outside). You could also walk to Taurus, which is solid, but nothing to write home about, or take the bus up Peachtree to Holeman and Finch after 5pm (or Restaurant Eugene, their fancier sister restaurant, for dinner as well, no lunch). If there's something specific you're looking for, you can almost certainly find it a cab ride away.

    For sights, the Aquarium is probably the thing to do now, but will be packed most likely during Christmas week. If you love Coca Cola, you may want to hit the Coke "museum."

    1. There's the High Museum, Fernbank has an IMAX theater, The King Tut exhibit, Ice Skating at Centennial Park. The Zoo.

      Foodwise, Biskuit is right on.

      1. Amtrak does stop near downtown... come on people, it may not be the most widely used form of transportation but to think that Downtown Atlanta doesn't have an Amtrak station? Get to know your city! OK being fair, Amtrak stops north of the actual Midtown area, but it's not like it isn't there. ;-) The actual Amtrak station isn't very near a major MARTA rail station but there are buses that run from the Amtrak station to the nearest MARTA rail station. Or if you feel like walking it's probably a 20 minute walk to Arts Center Station (not exactly close).

        If you're interested in seeing Atlanta there will plenty of people watching near the aquarium, World of Coke, CNN Center, etc. In fact, I'd be willing to bet that there will be so many people there it will most likely be miserable. Just a head's up... don't think you're the only folks who plan on visiting the aquarium during the holiday season! If you decide you still want to go, make sure, and I mean WITHOUT QUESTION, buy your tickets in advance. That way you won't have to wait in super long lines like the rest of the public just to buy a ticket. I suggest hitting the Atlanta Botanical Gardens and cruising Piedmont Park. There are some nice things to see there and you won't be battling the soccer mom brigade and her stroller full of screaming kids.

        If you decide that's a route you want to go, Agnes & Muriel's is a decent dining option near Piedmont/Botanical Gardens.

        There's also Park Tavern which has a nice view of the park.

        After all that, I can only suggest that you drive to the nearest MARTA rail station (in your case the Doraville station) and work your way downtown from there. Amtrak sounds like fun, but you'll be using up 2 or 3 hours of valuable time just by riding Amtrak down from Gainesville, transferring to MARTA and getting to your destination. By driving I can estimate that you'll cut travel time at least by half.

        One thing to remember is that Atlanta is a huge sprawling city and public transportation is pretty bad. I would guess that very, very, very few people actually travel from Flowery Branch/Ganiesville to Atlanta the way you are planning to.

        1. Please, please do not go to Agnes and Muriel's and think it's "quirky" or in anyway "unique." It's manufactured kitsch and there are better options.

          Trois at 14th and Peachtree is Atlanta's most beautiful dining room. Table 1280 is at the High Museum and has a very chic bar. Holeman & Finch gets kudos for its inventive menu (Peachtree north of the Amtrak Station). If you're adventurous, hop in a cab and head to Edgewood Ave...Dynamic Dish is one of the most original restaurants anywhere and Noni's serves up a wonderful interpretation of Italian and great drinks. The dining scene on the Square in Decatur is great -- Brick Store Pub's amazing beer selection, Cakes and Ale for farm-to-table and Watershed for Scott Peacock's excellent southern fare.

          In Midtown, try Top Flr, Ecco or Nan. MF Sushi Bar can't be beat. Dogwood is getting good reviews too.
          Have Fun!

          2 Replies
          1. re: aka frank

            Read carefully, and in a situation name a better restaurant near Piedmont Park. Remember, we are talking public transportation or walking distance to any and all places. I'm not saying Agnes & Muriel's is high class or the best in Atlanta, but I'd rather eat there than have a sub sandwich from Publix across the street.

            And... if you want to represent Atlanta well, I suggest you base your claims on better food rather than "beautiful dining room[s]" or "very chic bar[s]". If I go to a restaurant I want good food, I don't want to see and be seen.

            1. re: HaagenDazs

              I can name many that are closer walking distance to any of the entrances to Piedmont Park. Most diners will agree that the atmosphere is a big parat of the dining experience and helps identify a restaurant with it's city. And If you want to get technical, Agnes and Muriels might be the farthest walking distance from any entrance to the park except MAYBE the Botanical Garden and then it's still 1/2 mile. Any of these, in my opinion, are better and closer than Agnes and Muriels:

              Trois -- 2 blocks from 14th street gate, excellent French food with a southern twist. just so happens to be in a beautiful room.
              Table 1280, 3 blocks to the Park, so what if it's chic, makes for a nice drink anyway.
              Tamarind Seed, 2 blocks from 14th st gate in Colony Square, great Thai food, not that expensive.
              Quattro, at the 12th st gate, good, cheap italian, generous wine portions.
              Zocallo, 1 block from 12th or 10th st entrances, great Margaritas and good Mexican.
              South City Kitchen, 4 blocks to 14th st gate, innovative Southern food.
              Ecco, 6 blocks to the 10th St entrance, excellent wine list, house cured salumi, wonderful cheeses and innovative italian.

          2. The Amtrak Station is just a touch north of Midtown, however you will learn that public transportation in Atlanta is severely lacking. The 23 bus will pick you up at the station and take you south to the Art Center Station. Little 5 points is the most eclectic part of town. You can ride the subway to the inman park/reynolds town station then the 6 bus to L5P on Moreland south of North avenue. Couple of hours of walking around here. The 23 bus you started on will take you North and South on Peachtree... if you want to have a fantastic meal with drinks, I would suggest Holeman and Finch which is north on Peachtree. For a really unique evening, right across the street from the amtrak station is the Viking Cook Store, they have cooking classes most of the week. Look for a hands on where you will cook a gourmet dinner then sit and eat your meal on a nicely set table with a wine pairing..

            1 Reply
            1. re: ddub

              Wow, thanks everyone for your suggestions! Unfortunately (on many levels), my dad appears to have had a mild stroke on the day before our trip, and we had to cancel. I will keep these excellent tips and use them on my next trip down.